Final report: Nissan Micra long-term test
08 May 2018
Author: Sean Keywood
|Nissan Micra 0.9IG-T 90 N-Connecta|
|P11D price:|| £16,360|
|As tested:|| £18,740|
|Official consumption:|| 64.2mpg|
|Our average consumption:|| 42.1mpg|
Final Report - Going out in style
As long-term cars go, the Micra was a relatively brief visitor to our fleet, as after three months it's already gone. And in many ways that's a shame, because during its time with us, it did much to impress.
When the Micra first arrived, editor Debbie Wood suggested the Energy Orange paint might divide opinion, but, in fact, all of us on the team were in favour. It's the sort of fun colour that works well on a supermini and combined well with the Micra's funky styling. After several generations of Micras that were either deathly dull or overly cutesy to look at, it's a welcome change that the designers tried to be interesting and different, and with plenty of success - it's certainly not a car that carries its predecessors' image concerns. I was less sure about the associated Energy Orange Interior Pack - the orange dash put me rather in mind of an overdone spray tan - but again, it's certainly eye-catching and interesting, which is what this sort of car needs to stand out.
Among the favourite features to emerge during the Micra's stay with us was the high-quality 360° parking camera - part of the £600 option Vision+ pack - which provides a birds-eye-style view and makes parking a doddle. Other highlights were the soft and comfortable seats, and a relatively spacious interior and boot.
One of the last drives I took in the Micra was a 400-mile round trip from Kent to visit family in Devon. For the most part, it was good, though there was a snag on the approach to my hometown when the sat-nav kept trying to route me off the main road onto country lanes for no apparent reason. Suspecting there wouldn't be traffic as it was late in the evening, I ignored the system and the original route ended up totally clear, meaning a driver who hadn't known the area would have had 20 minutes added to their journey for no reason.
That late sat-nav slip-up was a shame, as overall there was a lot to like about the Micra's infotainment system. The graphics on the 7in touchscreen could have been a bit sharper, but it was easy to use, helped greatly by the presence of a number of physical buttons alongside the screen, controlling major functions. It's refreshing, especially when so many new cars have these hidden away in fiddly touchscreen submenus. On a personal note, I also enjoyed having a CD player - outdated technology, of course, but a way to avoid eating mobile data with streaming services and fiddling with USB sticks, although the included Apple CarPlay functionality also worked without problems.
However you played your music, in the Micra it came through a Bose speaker system, a £500 option. This includes two speakers mounted in the driver's headrest, but I ended our time with the car still unconvinced by their merits. Press your head back into the headrest and you can hear them working, but sit normally and, though the sound is good, you can't really tell where it's coming from and it's not noticeably worse sitting in the conventional passenger seats.
Overall driving impressions were that the Micra was more geared towards comfort than fun. It's a perfectly engaging, nippy supermini around town and the three-cylinder engine was never found wanting here or, indeed, on motorways, if you were prepared to work the gearbox a bit - the long slogs to events around the country that are common when working for BusinessCar were never cause for concern. But the B-road handling wasn't the sharpest and it felt more at home in these environments cruising along, allowing you to enjoy the comfortable seats and refined ride. The manual gearbox could have been a bit slicker too, sometimes taking a couple of attempts to engage reverse gear.
Our overall fuel economy of 42.1mpg compared with the official combined figure of 64.2mpg was a bit disappointing; however, it's worth noting that this did improve once the bulk of its mileage switched from inner-city work to motorways and dual carriageways.
Overall, we found the Micra a likeable companion that, despite its town car origins, coped admirably well with the arduous commuting demands placed on members of our fleet. It shall be missed.
5th Report - Mixed outlook
It's a sign of the fast rate of progress with all things autonomous in the motor industry that systems such as rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights are now fitted to humble superminis like our Micra without too much fanfare. However, given the notorious changeability of UK weather, there aren't many features that drivers in this country use more. Unfortunately, on a recent drive from Kent to the Midlands, these systems had one or two niggles.
It was the sort of typical British day, where the weather repeatedly varied from torrential downpour to clear skies and everything in between. Unfortunately, the 'in between' seemed to pose a problem for the Micra's wipers, which in light drizzle refused to switch themselves on, even when the screen was covered in raindrops, forcing me to manually trigger a sweep. When the rain got heavier, they fired up without a problem, but this wasn't until the point when, in a car with conventional wipers, I'd have been switching to continuous wiping anyway, surely defeating the point of the automatic system. I have driven the Micra in drizzle previously and it's been absolutely fine, so I don't know why on this particular journey it struggled, but it was irritating nonetheless.
The other issue was with the automatic lights. These are normally very good, coming on as soon as twilight hits or when cloud cover dictates they should be necessary. However, on this particular drive, as the sky repeatedly turned from clear and blue to dark and stormy, they failed to respond. When cars are fitted with these systems, you soon get used to them, so on this journey I twice found myself driving along in pouring rain, through spray kicked up by lorries and with light levels close to dusk, before suddenly realising that my headlights weren't on - not an ideal situation.
The truth is, though, that this feels like a harsh update. Because the fact is, on a six-hour motorway round trip on a mostly miserable day, these little niggles were all I could find to complain about. Perhaps, if that is the case with a supermini, it is the truest indication of just how far motoring development has come.
Our average fuel consumption: 41mpg
4th Report - The view from above
In the 12 years since I passed my test, there can be few elements of driving that have changed as much as reverse parking. Back then, unless in one of a small handful of models, drivers were wholly reliant on using their mirrors and looking over their shoulder. Now, proximity parking sensors and reversing cameras are commonplace, while cars that can park themselves have stepped out of the realm of sci-fi and on to an increasing number of high streets. Somewhere in between, though, is the 360° camera, as fitted to our long-term Micra.
The system, billed here as the 'Intelligent Around View Monitor', uses cameras on each side and end of the car. It creates an image on the dashboard screen with the car in the centre, showing exactly what is going on all around it. This might sound complicated on paper, but in practice it works brilliantly, and the Nissan system - previously seen on bigger cars in the range - is one of the best. It really is as if there's a drone hovering above the vehicle, giving you a perfect view of your manoeuvre, allowing you to line up precisely with white lines in a car park, or with other cars or the kerb when parallel parking. Certainly, gone are the days of opening the driver's door for a sneak peek at how far you are from the line or kerb before some subtle remanoeuvring. You're still told to keep an eye on your mirrors and out of the window, but the system makes parking in even the toughest of spaces a doddle, especially when combined with the parking sensors, and conventional front and rear camera that also come with the Micra.
All these features are part of the Vision+ pack. It's a £600 option, but we think it's well worth having, especially as it also includes a blind-spot monitoring system. This helps reduce stress on busy motorways, particularly since the Micra isn't the best supermini for all-round visibility.
Our average fuel consumption: 40.8mpg
3rd Report - City life
The new Nissan Micra is a Japanese car, built in France, but engineered in Cranfield in the UK. Driving the Micra around London, what's immediately noticeable is its impressive comfort and handling, probably something to do with it being engineered for the bumpy and uneven road surfaces in this country.
The suspension on the car is fairly stiff, meaning it doesn't bounce around very much and, in the city, it doesn't thump over the potholes, instead gliding over them effortlessly.
Our Micra corners well too, and feels engaging and stable at speed, fooling you into thinking it's a much bigger car than it actually is. It has light steering, which is helpful in the city, while the clutch is also light and the gearstick is easy to manoeuvre.
The ability to reach an impressive 64.2mpg according to NEDC cycle tests, and emissions of 99g/km of CO2 means our 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol test car is a suitable contender for motorway slogs. But the engine makes the Micra a city car at heart.
The smaller engine may cost more than the larger 1.0-litre petrol also offered in the range, but this engine happily zips the car along in the city and feels far punchier, making it worth the premium in our eyes. The engine runs smoothly and quietly most of the time, although you can expect to hear a hearty grunt when you rev it.
It does take a while to warm up and feels a tad reluctant to accelerate sometimes, but nonetheless, you know the turbocharger is there, with its subtle surge of torque every so often.
The worst things about the car, though, are the blind spots. These are caused by the right A-pillar, which can restrict your view quite a lot at junctions. The back windscreen also makes reversing a pain but thanks to the £600 Vision+ pack, Intelligent Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection and Intelligent Blind Spot Intervention is added - definitely worth the premium in our books.
Our average fuel consumption: 38.2mpg
2nd Report - Sitting comfortably
The first time I drove the Micra, I was forced to pull over within a few miles and investigate something moving around in the driver footwell. I feared a loose object was at risk of interfering with the pedals, but the culprit turned out to be the floor mat, which is only fixed in place at the back, and on our car was curling up at the front, where it was being flicked up when the clutch pedal was depressed. It was annoying - and more than a little disconcerting, so near the brake pedal.
An inauspicious start for the Micra then, but fortunately things have since improved greatly. On my regular motorway-heavy commute, I've been particularly impressed by the seats.
Nissan is keen to talk up the optional Bose speakers mounted in the driver's headrest, but more important to me, in this case, is just how comfortable and supportive they are. Combined with a decent ride quality, they make the Micra a surprisingly relaxing way to travel home after a long day at the office. This is also aided by the blind-spot warning system included as an option with the car, which helps reduce stress in heavy traffic.
The 0.9-litre engine's not overwhelmed by motorways either. You do need to hold the lower gears in the five-speed manual gearbox a bit longer to get up to speed, but you get a fun little three-cylinder engine note while doing so. Once you're at a cruising speed, while we might like a sixth gear to save fuel, it isn't noisy.
The only minor quibble I have from a comfort point of view is the lack of a front armrest, which I do miss when stuck in jams. This also means there's no centre storage compartment, although you do get three central cupholders, making the Micra an ideal car of choice for a team coffee run.
Our average fuel consumption: 38mpg
1st Report - Is orange the new black?
Entering Europe in 1983, the Nissan Micra has been winning over fans for almost 35 years in the UK. During that time, there have been five generations of the supermini, but it's fair to say that none have been quite as significant as this latest version launched last year.
The previous Micra was something of a characterful and niche choice, more akin to the Fiat 500 in terms of its appeal and styling, but now Nissan is taking the supermini mainstream to challenge the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio and Seat Ibiza.
Bold styling cues, a significant growth spurt and the latest modern tech were just some of the headline changes introduced in 2017, and early impressions left us very impressed indeed, awarding the new Micra 9/10 when we drove the car for the first time 12 months ago.
Available as a five-door only, it's not just the styling department in which the new Micra really impresses. This fifth-generation model is much larger than its predecessor, especially in the rear, and boot space has grown significantly to 300 litres, easily on a par with the sector's big hitters like the Renault Clio and Ford Fiesta.
There's a choice of four trims and our latest long-termer has been spec'd in popular mid-range N-Connecta. There's also a lot of safety kit on board, including lane-departure warning, traffic sign recognition and automatic high beam, all useful features that are rarely seen as part of standard specification in this class. There's plenty of modern technology, including Apple CarPlay, a 7in infotainment system with sat-nav, cruise control and LED daytime running lights.
Also included with our test car is just over £2,300 worth of options that we're looking forward to testing thoroughly over the next three months. For music lovers, there is the Bose Audio Personal Pack for £500 that includes four Bose speakers and two driver headrest speakers. The Vision+ Pack seems very reasonable for £600, incorporating the firm's 360° camera seen elsewhere on the Qashqai and X-Trail, a moving object detection system and blind-spot monitoring.
Helping to brighten up the interior is the Energy Orange Interior Pack for £400 that adds a splash of colour to the dash inserts, the transmission tunnel and the seats. The choice of interior colour pack needs to match that of the exterior paintwork, though, which in our case costs an extra £575.
The Energy Orange Metallic paintwork has already divided opinion in my household and I'm sure it'll do the same in the rest of the team. One thing is for sure though, it'll definitely catch people's attention.
You've only got three choices of engine for the Micra: two petrol and one diesel. It's this turbocharged 0.9-litre that is expected to take a large proportion of sales and hits the sweet spot in terms of versatility, price and running costs.
According to NEDC cycle tests, the 0.9-litre petrol achieved 64.2mpg combined during its round of testing and emits 99g/km of CO2, meaning an 18% BIK tax band for the current 2017-18 year. Meanwhile, the 0-62mph sprint is achieved in 12.1 seconds courtesy of the 90hp and 150Nm of torque on offer, which is perhaps not quite as impressive.
The Micra is geared more towards comfort than sporting agility and we're looking forward to finding out how this engine fares across all types of roads in the weeks to come. Although naturally at home in the city, this engine, on paper at least, appears to be the best choice for motorway slogs - a theory we will definitely be putting to the test.